Traveling by car increases global temperatures more than by plane, but only in long term

Driving a car increases global temperatures in the long run more than making the same long-distance journey by air according to a new study. However, in the short run travelling by air has a larger adverse climate impact because airplanes strongly affect short-lived warming processes at high altitudes. The study appears in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-weekly journal.

In the study, Jens Borken-Kleefeld and colleagues compare the impacts on global warming of different means of transport. The researchers use, for the first time, a suite of climate chemistry models to consider the climate effects of all long- and short-lived gases, aerosols and cloud effects, not just carbon dioxide, resulting from transport worldwide. They concluded that in the long run the global temperature increase from a car trip will be on average higher than from a plane journey of the same distance. However, in the first years after the journey, air travel increases global temperatures four times more than car travel. Passenger trains and buses cause four to five times less impact than automobile travel for every mile a passenger travels. The findings prove robust despite the scientific uncertainties in understanding the earth’s climate system.

“As planes fly at high altitudes, their impact on ozone and clouds is disproportionately high, though short lived. Although the exact magnitude is uncertain, the net effect is a strong, short-term, temperature increase,” explains Dr. Jens Borken-Kleefeld, lead author of the study. “Car travel emits more carbon dioxide than air travel per passenger mile. As carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere longer than the other gases, cars have a more harmful impact on climate change in the long term.”

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/es9039693

CONTACT:

Jens Borken-Kleefeld, Ph.D.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Laxenburg, Australia

Phone: 43 (2236) 870-570

Fax: 43 (2236) 870-530

Email: [email protected]

Leane Regan, Press Officer

IIASA

Tel: +43 2236 807 316 or Mob: +43 664 443 0368

Email: [email protected]

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.